On Mardi Gras morning, the first words out of my 7-year-old son Sam’s mouth were, “Mardi Gras over.” It wasn’t a question. It was a wish. He’d had enough.
The long Carnival season had not been without drama. At one parade, Sam collected a pink and gray plush toy. The indeterminate barnyard animal was dirty when it came off the float; a rider likely recycled one of his own kids’ old toys.
Sam gallantly presented it to little sister Celia. I thought it was a cow. Celia named it Piggy.
Hours later, while packing the overloaded double-wide stroller for the long hike home, a parental decision was made to leave the dirty cow-pig in our hosts’ backyard. Surely Celia wouldn’t miss it, not with all the other stuff she got.
That night, she cried herself to sleep over the missing Piggy.
Maybe she’d forget about it by the next morning. She woke up, asked for Piggy and resumed crying.
We texted the hosts of the party. They’d found Piggy in their yard, safe, sound and still dirty. He’d soon be reunited with Celia.
A Mardi Gras miracle.
My 9-year-old daughter, Sophie, took the loss hard. The unexpected defeat was difficult to p…
On Fat Tuesday, Sam and Celia were Thing 1 and Thing 2, the matched pair of merry mischief-makers from the Dr. Seuss classic “The Cat in the Hat.” No costume has ever reflected the wearer’s personality more accurately.
I was the Cat in the Hat, ostensibly in control of Thing 1 and Thing 2. My wife and eldest daughter, Sophie, were matching non-Seuss “dark angels.”
We took in Zulu from a viewing stand on St. Charles Avenue. Behind and below us, a family watched through a gap in the stands. A little girl, maybe 6 years old, was clearly upset she couldn’t get closer to catch throws.
The Cat in the Hat, the white greasepaint on his face splotchy from sweat, sprang into action. With her mother’s blessing, I scooped the little girl over the barricade and right up to a float. A rider immediately handed her a coconut. She beamed; her family cheered.
Hopefully, many years from now, she’ll fondly remember her Mardi Gras miracle, the time an embalmed-looking Cat in the Hat helped her catch a Zulu coconut.
Handing over your 4-year-old daughter for surgery is not easy.
We set out for the French Quarter, dodging Rex floats to cross Canal Street. Thing 2, in her blue wig and red jumpsuit, pulled a wagon loaded with water and adult beverages, singing “Mardi Gras Mambo.” Somewhere, Art Neville was smiling.
Members of the Society of St. Anne twirled, a surreal swirl of color, music and joy. A brass band rambled by, blowing Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.” Percussionists pounded on a makeshift drum kit mounted on a wheelchair. Smiling people handed the kids beads and toys. Outside the St. Louis Cathedral, we danced to a Wu-Tang Clan song.
It was all random, nonsensical and fun, as Mardi Gras should be.
Our goal was to reach Frenchmen Street, on the far side of the Quarter. But as the day wore on, we paused to chat with friends on the Decatur Street sidewalk.
A tall, scary dude — his tattered gutter-punk jacket was clearly not a costume — stopped short. He woozily stared at Celia and Sam.
“Wow, Thing 1 and Thing 2,” he said, smiling faintly.
"How about that," I thought. "He’s conjuring some distant, happy memory from childhood."
He stared some more, then leaned in close: “These mushrooms are really making me appreciate your kids.”
At that exact moment, the Cat in the Hat realized it was time to put Thing 1 and Thing 2 back in their box and go home.
As magical as Mardi Gras can be in the morning, it takes an ugly turn late in the afternoon. As daylight drains from the sky, the bill for a full day of revelry comes due. Costumes, and revelers, fray in a way that is no longer family friendly.
We’d overstayed our welcome and suddenly felt trapped behind enemy lines. The safety of the minivan was many blocks away, on the far side of the gauntlet that was now the French Quarter.
Our retreat commenced in earnest. At the corner of Royal and Conti streets, a young woman was face down, motionless, cordoned off by police. “What happened?” Sophie asked, as a teachable moment presented itself.
Well, she made some bad decisions. And she wasn’t the only one.
Thing 1 and Thing 2 were passed out as well but for far more benign reasons. They overindulged on Carnival in general.
They slept peacefully, side by side in the stroller, all the way back to the van. One final Mardi Gras miracle.